The Jewel of Japan

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Drum Logos, Fukuoka

Upon stepping out of the dark and musty club into the clear Japan night, I knew that we had just seen the best show Phish would play all summer.  It wasn’t that they had been playing poorly, in fact, quite the contrary, Phish had been tearing up Japan.  This show was just that good.  We were all a bit awestruck by what had just happened inside Drum Logos, and everyone’s faces conveyed this.  I turned to my buddy, and made the bold, yet confident, statement, “That was the best show we’ll see all summer.” And the US tour hadn’t even started.  But it turned out I was right- at least in my humble opinion.

One of the smaller clubs of the tour, Fukuoka’s Drum Logos sat unassumingly along a city sidewalk across from a park.  It would have gone unnoticed but for the smattering of fans congregated outside.  The mid-point of Japan’s two-week tour, this night in Fukuoka would live immortally not only in the memories of everyone present on Japan’s southern island, but also in the form of Live Phish Volume 4.  From note one of the first set, it was clearly on, but the ridiculously powerful exploration took place in the second.

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Drum Logos In the Distance (J.Greene)

Following a set opening bluegrass-funk session in “Get Back on the Train,” Phish got down to business in earnest as the opening of “Twist” echoed delicately through the intimate room.  The band moved through the initial section of the song and dropped into the jam with utmost subtlety.  Allowing the improv to move organically instead of pushing it in any direction, the band took their time as they quietly bounced ideas around the stage.  This mellow portion lent ample space for each member to develop and offer their own musical phrases without overriding anyone else.  Stepping into some blissful drone patterns, the band created a musical milieu that most definitely didn’t pop off the stage at every show.  This music was deliberately patient, developing incredibly slowly and  coherently, sounding like a Phishy “Dark Star”-style jam.  The jam held a very enchanting quality that drew you in- stub-0614Page played beautiful piano chords, Mike played a select few notes at a time to carry the sparse rhythm, Trey focused on texture and sound, while Fish framed it all with a minimal cymbal-heavy beat.  Sounding like the soundtrack to a dream, the band progressed through some of the most sublime improv in recent memory.  This was IT; this is why we were in Japan.  This was not the type of music Phish played every night, but rather a mystical aberration in a tiny Japanese club, with the higher powers harnessed fluently.  Eyes closed, I glided away in a dream state, floating in space with the meticulously played music as my invisible magic carpet.

Japanese Heads (John Greene)

Japanese Heads at Drum Logos (P. McGuire)

The improv wound itself to an even more mellow and beat-less space where Trey began playing refined high-octave melodies atop the band’s sonic backdrop.  This was the first time that Trey played outright melodic leads, and it was in a segment of music that sounded like a cosmic lullaby; sheer beauty supported by a web of psychedelia.  Allowing this minimalist segment to take its natural course, the band settled into a near-silent state before Trey brought the “Twist” melody back from the depths.  A truly epic jam that focused on sound rather than melody- textures rather than beats- had just unfolded, and it took a minute to readjust our perceptions.  But as this marked the end of one divine excursion, it was merely the start of another.

4lpAllowing the feedback from the end of “Twist” to linger in the air, the band seized the moment and began sculpting that quiet feedback into an abstract soundscape.  Before long, all band members added layers to the sonic puzzle which continued to deepen.  The patterns played seemed almost mechanical as Fishman subtly created a quiet, yet driving, beat.  Underneath layers of effects, Mike began playing what sounded like a super-slowed down version of the “Ghost” intro bass line.  But this didn’t seem to be heading for “Ghost”- the band was fully immersed in something completely other.  An ominous feeling ballooned from the stage as the improv turned into creeping psychedelic grooves with Mike still leading the quasi-melodic path.  A melange of thick tonal color emanated from both Page and Trey’s keyboards, furthering the eerie theme.  Mike’s playing grew even more prominent, quickly directing the band into a much heavier jam, and the band once again found themselves floating amidst IT.  Trey finally began to use his guitar more conventionally, adding some rhythm licks to this sinister music.  Phish had transformed the small venue into some sort of futuristic dance hall with one of those jams that you knew would hold up forever, even though you were still living it.

Any thoughts of “Ghost” were left in the wake of the band’s virtuoso jamming and infectiously slowed-down patterns.  This was Phish at their sound-sculpting best, creating a unique and methodical musical monster.

phish-kabuki-99Finally, Page and Trey removed some layers of sound and the band broke into an outright groove that reached out and grabbed you.  Turning their focus to rhythm and melody rather than overt psychedelia, the band emerged in a drawn out and addictive groove that we soaked in before the band gradually began building into….”Walk Away!?”  Out of the depths of this colossal jam, Phish seamlessly segued into their old-school cover that had only seen the light of day four times since 1994.

The James Gang song gave the audience some composed moments to digest the magnitude of the music that had just happened, because when it ended, Phish was right back at it.  Allowing the ending of “Walk Away” to linger, much like they did with “Twist,” the band took the sonic wash and began to, once again, mold it like Play-Doh.  The subsequent six minutes saw Trey play chorded melodies over a quiet canvas with Fishman keeping a muted beat behind him. This jam progressed to near silence before Page began blocking out some sparse piano chords.  Meanwhile, Fish and Mike were busy crafting what certainly sounded like the very beginnings of a “2001” intro.  As Trey added some quintessential space-age effects, it seemed that the club had been cleared for blast off.

phish-japan-00-cardOut of this gorgeous soundscape, Fish nailed his snare and the place exploded with the onset of full-on space funk.  For the last fifteen minutes of the set, Phish settled into the groove they had hinted at all night, and slaughtered a smooth club version of “2001.”  This was a celebratory dance session, as the entire audience felt the same flow, having been brought through a deep and eerie set to this vibrant peak.  This “2001” served as an indelible exclamation point for this top-notch set.  It was, in fact, the first time in the band’s career that they ended any set with the dance anthem.  Fitting perfectly at the conclusion of this excessively exploratory set, the Japanese crowd reveled in the slick grooves that slid through the air.  As “2001” peaked, everyone expected to hear something come out of it; whether it was a “Sample,” or “Golgi” or “Frankenstein” or something!  But no; nothing at all- it was so powerful!  Phish masterfully worked the feedback down to silence to the amazement of the crowd.   As Trey walked off stage, he gave his signature bow and “Domo Arigato!” to the crowd, when in fact the crowd could have done the very same for the band.

(Note: The standout first set has not even been mentioned!  The opening series of “Carini,” “Curtain > Cities,” “Gumbo > Llama” absolutely crushed, with the clear highlight being the “Crosseyed”-laced “Gumbo” grooves.  The set ending “Split” was also a jam to be reckoned with).

====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.16.94 State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN SBD < LINK

State Thatre, Minneapolis, MN

State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

A SBD copy of an exciting Summer ’94 show, this one comes in as a special reader request. The second set reads like a classic ’94 adventure, with a fierce “Antelope,” a rare “Forbin’s > Kung > Mockingbird” and an interesting “Disease > Contact.”  The first set saw “Gumbo” appear for the first time in 103 shows.  Enjoy!

I: Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Julius, Fee > Maze, Gumbo, The Curtain > Dog Faced Boy, Stash, The Squirming Coil

II: Suzy Greenberg, Run Like an Antelope, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Kung > Famous Mockingbird, Big Ball Jam, Down With Disease > Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Purple Rain > HYHU, Golgi Apparatus

E: Ginseng Sullivan*, Amazing Grace*, Good Times Bad Times

* acoustic, not on recording.

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140 Responses to “The Jewel of Japan”

  1. do we know for a fact that they’re practicing?

  2. MannyFresh Says:

    Thinking of buying Phish tickets on ebay for Hamptons. Has anyone ever been burned before. I have never bought tickets through ebay before, but my plans opened up for that weekend, wedding was canceled. Better my friend found out his fiancee was an unfaithful **** before they were married. Now that is what I call being burned, but I would hate to spend money on a ticket to find out it was a fake at the gate.

  3. ^ I’d call and talk to the people, or send em a message first. Though I bought mine on ebay way back in October, and have been in touch with the broker the entire time…I think Stub Hub (owned by ebay!) may guarantee their transactions….anyway you figure it, you gotta be there!

  4. “do we know for a fact that they’re practicing?”

    ^^ Yes. They have been sighted at least three times in studios in NYC. But I guess that guarantees 3 practices. 😉

  5. Hey MannyFresh, If you can afford it, get tickets that you pay with paypal… that way you can get your money back if the tickets never arrive.

    Hey elbows… how long have you been elbows?

    i’ve been elbow since 2000… and the leg was added in 2005…

    Hey My. Miner… I’ve been reading for the last 4 months or so… I think I was turned onto this place by a link on phish.net or something like that….

    Very good reading… I enjoy having something new to read several times a week….

    I have to ask… how did you make it to so many shows? Do you travel within the bands entourage? or are you just the most hardcore fan ever?

    Either way, cheers for all the great reads. I don’t go to phantasytour and by the way you guys talk about it I don’t want to go… and week4paug and inforoo and infobury & jambase & jambands.com just don’t have it on point like you do man. I’m a lurker here and I look forward to all you have instore for us!

    Oh yea and good shot on linking to the Surrender to the Flow survey a few days ago. I still have my last issue from Coventry.

  6. What does “Drum Logos” mean anyway?

  7. Billy Breathes Says:

    where’s wax banks?

  8. full tour: announced! Says:

    all jokes aside, hampton opener¦

    she got the look……by roxette

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Last song I heard before I got out of the car after a long day’s work was one of Miner’s Tubes. While having a smoke with the old lady a minute later an old school hippie who lives down the street drives by and gives me the peace sign whilst bumping some funky Robert Palmer. Gotta love those Phishidences.
    “Robert Palmer is applauded again, again, again. So stupendous living in this tube.”

  10. ^^ is that what it says…i have never had ANY idea

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Me neither . Looked it up and trusted. I like that pronunciation, too.

  12. Applauded…that fills a huge gap in my Phish mystery box.

  13. Do you do drugs Danny?

    Everyday.

  14. hairy pood Says:

    i always though it said “is a ploy”

  15. shpongleyez Says:

    “Ganser, ganser, ganser”, no? 😉

  16. i always thought the tubes lyrics were

    “Robert Palmer is a ploy, baganza ganza ganza….”

  17. Lawsuit against Ticketmaster for those that have been following the folly:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/584720

    http://www.ticketmasterclassaction.com/

  18. The above seems to be for Canada’s TM only…not sure if it applies to the states.

  19. themanatee Says:

    umm, anyone else not have their Hampton lottery tickets yet?

  20. Man, I wish I’d read this thread when it happened – some loopy, irrelevant shit up in this joint. But ‘permissive parenting’ is where it’s at, I guess. 🙂

    The Twist > etc. > Walk > etc. is far and away the best Phish2K I’ve heard, though I’ve enjoyed 9/11/00 II as well. On par with everything I’ve heard from 1999 as well – and preferable (in my mind) to any of the Big Cypress material. Well-chosen, Miner (and well-chosen for the LivePhish series, of course). It’s been in my writing-music mix for about a week and it’s just wonderfully spacious, welcoming music. Less enamored of the first ‘Fukuoka Jam,’ if only because it’s less delicate and pays off more active listening, but the boys were clearly very much in tune on this night. I’m used to more uptempo versions of ‘Walk Away,’ but damn – they really get into the vocals and do this one justice.

    I’m coming around on Phish2K to an extent. I still don’t think the ambient/textural stuff is on par with their Fall ’97 material – it’s easier to play interesting ‘space jams’ than to make complex polyphonic/polyrhythmic music that’s also fun to listen to, is the problem, and I can’t shake the feeling that it appealed to more-than-previously-fucked-up Phish2K in part because it’s easier. But my extramusical frustration complicates my musical frustration, and I can’t separate them. So no further comment on that score.

    I’ve been trying to listen to Summer/Fall ’95 material lately too. Not as easy as it once was. Alas!

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